The seventh edition of the Pro Kabaddi League begins on July 20 and will run for almost three months, till October 19. Given the unpredictable nature of kabaddi, ESPN thought of doing something unpredictable too — such as a wishlist. The items in this list may or may not happen, but there’s no harm in hoping, right?
Here are some of the things on top of our mind.
Third time lucky for Gujarat Fortunegiants
Gujarat have arguably been the best team over the last couple of seasons — basically throughout their existence. They have won the most number of matches, topped the table in their zone and played as a unit, with everyone contributing almost equally to the wins. They have a solid team, most of which has been retained in the form of their core three — Sachin Tanwar, Sunil Kumar and Parvesh Bhainswal. What they’ve lacked, though, is final-day success — losing to Bengaluru Bulls last season and to Patna Pirates before that. What goes wrong? Even they haven’t been sure, but they always seem to fall just short.
But that might change this season. Things might click and Gujarat might just carry forward their winning group-stage performances to the final too.
Season of underdogs
A few teams have yet to make the playoffs. Tamil Thailavas, for example. Then there are a few that have been struggling, such as Telugu Titans, Puneri Paltan and Jaipur Pink Panthers. These are the teams that aren’t exactly favourites at this point. But with a new season, relatively new players in every team and a chance to start from scratch, the underdogs might rise and find momentum. Jaipur, after all, now has Deepak Narwal supporting Deepak Niwas Hooda, while Pune has kabaddi’s Captain Cool Anup Kumar as their coach. The Titans have Siddharth Desai and the Thalaivas have Ajay Thakur and Rahul Chaudhari. Now who says that tables can’t turn?
Ajay-Rahul to conquer playoffs
What happens when two of the biggest names in the kabaddi circle work together in a single team for three continuous months? Well, we don’t know that yet, but one shouldn’t expect anything less than fireworks from the combination of Ajay Thakur and Rahul Chaudhari. One known for his signature frog jumps, the other for quick running hand touches. One struggling because of the lack of raiding support from team members, the other because of the lack of leadership. It almost feels like the combination of these two might be the best solution for both their problems and, therefore, give the viewers a raiding partnership like never before.
Pardeep Narwal to reclaim his throne
Patna Pirates’ Pardeep Narwal has been the undisputed king of the Pro Kabaddi League. He was the top scorer — leading the raiding charts by a distance — in seasons 3 (when he made his debut) and 5, and his team won three titles (seasons 3, 4 and 5). However, something changed the last time. Neither did Patna win nor did Pardeep finish on top. In fact, he was dethroned by Bengaluru Bulls’ Pawan Kumar Sehrawat by a margin of 49 points. Many of his records got broken by younger players as well, including the fastest 50 points (by Siddharth Desai) and the most number of points scored by an individual player in the final (by Sehrawat). That might have stung.
This season, with Jang Kun Lee providing raiding reinforcement, we think Pardeep might just take his revenge and come back with a bang — and maybe break his own record of an eight-point raid.
Taking bro code to the next level
Don’t we all remember the cool brother duos competing against each other in the IPL? Like Yusuf and Irfan Pathan? Or even the ones that were in the same team? Like Krunal and Hardik Pandya? Well, the PKL is not too far behind in that department. This year, three brother duos have been formed — and that too in the same teams. So how about some display of families that play together, win together?
The Desai brothers, Siddharth and Suraj, will be seen for the first time together in Telugu Titans. For those who don’t know, for younger brother Siddharth, Suraj was one of his first inspirations to take up kabaddi. And if Suraj turns out to be anything like his brother has been so far, PKL fans will be in for a treat. Another set of brothers known for their partnership already are Gujarat’s corners, and cousins, Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar. Playing together since childhood, these two know exactly what to expect from the other while defending. The third set of brothers are the Khandolas — Vikash and Vikram — for Haryana Steelers. While Vikash has already made a mark with his captaincy and raiding skills, this will be Vikram’s debut season.